Archive for February, 2013February 7, 2013
In 1927, the Des Moines Federation of Women’s Clubs petitioned to the Board of Water Works Trustees to install a municipal water softening plant to save customers money spent on soap and wear and tear on clothes. For the next 20 years there were arguments for and against construction of such a facility and then World War II delayed progress of this project until 1947.
A lengthy feature article titled “City to Enjoy Soft Water in Two Years” appeared in The Des Moines Register in November 1947. It described the advantages of soft water and the method of treatment that would be used, and mentioned that cost of the operation of the plant might have to be financed through a raise in water rates. The state health department engineer was quoted as saying the usual experience is that the added cost of soft water is equaled by the saving in soap alone. He also mentioned additional savings, such as longer life of boilers and water heaters.
In December 1949, the filter and lime softening plant went into operation. It consisted of two underground basins, each with a four million gallon capacity, and the filter building which housed the laboratory, chemical feed operations, and eight filters. The filters resemble small swimming pools, each of which contains 100 tons of gravel and 130 tons of sand and holds approximately 50,000 gallons of water.
In the underground basins, lime is mixed with water to remove minerals and kill bacteria. Then the water was pumped to the filters, where it was cleaned by passing through layers of gravel and sand.
In 1958, the capacity of the filter plant doubled when two lime softening basins and eight filters were added.
The filter and lime softening processes are vital to treating the public water supply and are still being used today.
With continued concerns about drought and a desire to ensure mechanisms are in place with the State of Iowa and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Saylorville, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) requested the release of water from Saylorville on January 16. For six hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., about 5 million gallons of water was released at a rate of 30 cubic feet per second (cfs = 7.5 fluid gallons). To prepare for possible drought conditions again this summer, DMWW wanted to ensure that a future release could occur in a timely fashion.
In 1982, DMWW signed agreements with the State of Iowa and the United States of America in regards to water storage space in Saylorville Reservoir. DMWW paid $2.4 million for the storage rights, and we continue to pay $100,000 per year for maintaining a pumping facility.
“Des Moines Water Works has never exercised the process of releasing our water supply at Saylorville Reservoir,” said Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager. “But given last year’s drought conditions, including poor water quality while in short supply, it is in our best interest to test the procedures to protect all our water resources for our ratepayers.”
The State of Iowa has the right to request the release of 18.86% of the volume of water in Saylorville when levels are between 812-836-feet. Two-thirds of that volume would be for DMWW purposes and the other one-third for Alliant Energy in Ottumwa.
There are two components to water release from Saylorville Reservoir:
- Water quality release – this release ensures that there is enough water to support the wildlife habitat in and along the river.
- Water supply release – the potential additional water release for Des Moines Water Works and Alliant Energy. Saylorville has a specific release plan in place for varying water levels.
The water released from Saylorville Reservoir directly benefits both the Fleur Drive and Saylorville Treatment Plants. DMWW can also release water from Maffitt Reservoir to benefit the L.D. McMullen Treatment Plant as needed, too.
Other proactive measures are already in place in the event of continued drought conditions. DMWW has acquired permits to dredge parts of the Des Moines River if the channel is not bringing enough water to our intake at Prospect Park. We also have a permit to dredge part of the Raccoon River to impact the channel by the flooding station to keep the recharge ponds and Gallery maximized.
Des Moines Water Works plans to meet all of our customer needs by these increasing available supplies of water, but if the drought continues, asking the public to conserve water, particularly in regards to lawn irrigation, may once again be requested.